Towards sustainable packaging design

Chill Out wine bottles made of PET plastic

The design of packages plays an important role in Altia’s operations, given that the company bottles over 70 million litres of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages every year. Good packaging design can reduce the volume of waste and CO2 emissions to a significant degree.

Altia’s operations have a strong focus on product development. Development work is also continuous in terms of the packaging of Altia’s own products, both in response to consumer trends and from the perspective of sustainability, for the achievement of recyclability and emission reductions, for example.

Over the past few years, Altia has increasingly shifted from glass bottles to the use of alternative packaging materials. The carbon footprint of entirely recyclable and light PET plastic bottles, for example, can be more than 70% smaller than that of glass bottles.

“PET bottles are well-suited for Nordic use, because we have good plastic recycling systems. The recycling rate of PET bottles is more than 90% in Finland, Sweden and Norway. The use of PET bottles in our packaging category has grown from one year to the next, and plastic packages account for approximately 40% of all of our consumer packages. Naturally, glass bottles still have their uses, but they are also subject to development work, particularly in terms of reducing their weight. Current glass bottles weigh up to a fourth less than older glass bottles,” says Juha Ylisiurua, Altia’s Packaging Development Manager.

The advantage of traditional glass bottles is that they preserve the beverage for the longest period of time. In PET bottles, a beverage is preserved for at least 12 months, which is nevertheless sufficient for most of the products and product categories bottled and packaged by Altia.

“To some extent, people still tend to have the image of wine bottled in glass bottles as being of a higher quality than wine bottled in PET bottles. People buying bottles as graduation gifts, for example, prefer buying glass bottles. This perception is changing, however, and PET bottles are increasingly acceptable particularly to the younger generations, mainly because of their environmental friendliness,” says Ylisiurua.

Nowadays, the aim is also to use only a single packaging material in packages, which makes sorting them as easy as possible. Approximately 96% of the tops of PET bottles, for example, are made from plastic. This means that the bottles can be returned with their tops, in which case as much of their material as possible ends up in recycling.

In addition to glass and PET bottles, products are packaged into bags-in-boxes and in paperboard cartons. The carbon footprint of cartons is considerably smaller than that of other packaging forms, and their share of all packaging materials is expected to increase in the future.

Product design must account for entire life cycles

Altia always cooperates with its extensive network of partners in the design of new packages, all the way up to their transport and sales. Altia also aims to achieve as minor an environmental impact as possible in terms of its subcontractors.

As is the case with other major goods suppliers, most of Altia’s carbon footprint arises from transportation. Efficient packaging design produced by the company’s own organisation enhances the role of logistics as a whole and has a positive impact on the carbon footprint arising from transportation. This is why even a small change in packages can translate into a great reduction in emissions.

“We engage in continuous product development to make all of our operations as environmentally friendly and efficient as possible and to optimise our use of materials. We are a significant operator in the beverage industry, and this gives us the chance to develop environmental aspects in terms of our subcontractors as well. Even on a global scale, Altia is a pioneer when it comes to packaging design and innovations,” says Ylisiurua.